Love is becoming increasingly international. It’s easier to meet people from other countries, whether in person or online, and to conduct long distance relationships via webcam and instant messaging. But the proliferation of international relationships means that at some point you may find yourself uprooting your life entirely and moving abroad for a partner.
“I want to be where you are.” Moving to their home
Life as an expatriate always requires an adjustment. When you’re joining a partner, you will have a built-in tour guide. However, you may be tempted to simply tag along with them, spend time with their friends, and visit their favorites places. It’s important for you to make a piece of the new country your own. Make friends. Find a job, hobby, or volunteer opportunity. Go exploring without your partner.
Make sure your partner understands your need to find your own way some times. They will probably be eager to show you the ropes. Trust their advice, but try to figure things out by yourself sometimes. This is the only way that you can build up the confidence in yourself that you’ll need to thrive as an expatriate.
I moved to Hong Kong to join my long distance love, but a month after I arrived his company sent him to London for a year. During that time, I was living in his home country alone. In a way, I was lucky because I had no choice but to find my own friends and activities. Hong Kong became my city as well as my sweetheart’s childhood home. When he returned, I was able to show him a thing or two.
“How can we make this work?” Moving to a new country together.
If you and your partner are both relocating so you can be together, you’ll get to form routines, explore exotic places, and practice a new language together. However, you may find that you have different reactions to the new country. Perhaps one of you is more suited to life abroad, or one of you is more passionate about the culture you are experiencing. Keep in mind that culture shock looks different for different people, and be patient with each other.
Before you move, talk about your expectations for the experience. Are you doing it only to be together? Are you both excited about the new adventure? Are either of you running away from something, rather than toward it? How long do you plan to stay there?
“What do we do next?”
Give yourselves a year to get used to the new country. It takes most expats this long to adjust. Then, reassess whether it is still the right place for you and your relationship. You may be happier if you know the move is temporary, or you may just need some time to get used to the idea of living in another country permanently. Communicate about your expectations for the future, and make a point of reexamining your situation once a year.
“Is this even a good idea?”
Don’t be afraid to try. A move to another country is a big deal, but it’s not as daunting as it used to be. You will be able to talk to your friends and family back home the same way you do with your beloved now. You will have a grand adventure with the person you love. However, make sure you know yourself, know your partner, and know your plans.
What concrete things can you do to help your transition to a new country go smoothly?
If you’ve been an expat, what was one thing that surprised you about the experience?
Shannon Young (Hong Kong)